Truth x 3
1. Last year, one of the students in my "Legal Issues of the 21st Century" seminar discussed in a paper the possibility that better understanding of how the mind works might produce a real lie detector, one that reliably reported whether a speaker believed that what he said was true. There is some, very slight, evidence that such a thing is on the way. What effects would it have on our society?
2. My second novel, Salamander, is a fantasy--unlike my first novel, with magic. One of the things that can be done by some mages is truthtelling. One of the faults of the novel, currently sitting at my publishers waiting to be read, is that I didn't put much thought into the question of how a society would be different if it was possible to tell when someone was (subjectively) lying.
3. Last but not least, it recently occurred to me that we have empirical evidence on the question. There have been many societies, including one of the plains Indian tribes covered in my other seminar (Legal Systems Very Different From Ours), whose members believed that an oath taken in a particular form had supernatural consequences--that perjurers would die. A residue of that belief survives in our society in the practice of testifying under oath.
By looking at a society where such beliefs were strong and nearly universal, one ought to be able to learn a good deal about what consequences reliable truth telling would have, whether in a fantasy society or our own high tech future.
Two questions for commenters:
1. What effects would you expect it to have?
2. What do we know about the effects that it actually had?